Christmas in July: A Claus for Celebration

July is the chilliest month of the year in Australia, so it’s the perfect time to enjoy all the trimmings and tradition of a typical cold Christmas.🎄

Bernard O’Riordan

Christmas in July. It’s a thing. In Australia, anyway.

For anyone who has ever celebrated the festive season Down Under, you’ll know it usually means scorching hot weather, the beach and seafood and salads for lunch.

So, when the weather turns cold, it’s hardly surprising that a growing number of Australians choose to simulate the traditional white Christmas they’ve only ever seen in the movies.

Often celebrated on July 25 – the half way point to Christmas – it’s a time of crackling fires and comfort food, ice skating and snow sledding, all without the mad crush of shopping for last minute Christmas presents.

Christmas in July is really nothing more than a great excuse for Australians and expats to indulge in all the trimmings of a traditional northern hemisphere Christmas – from egg nog and mulled wine, turkey and roast potatoes, to mince pies and plum pud.

Legend has it that a group of Irish Australians holidaying in the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney, came up with the idea of celebrating Christmas in July almost four decades ago.

The group was supposedly sitting by a roaring fire in the lounge of the Mountain Heritage Hotel in 1980 when they noticed snowflakes fluttering down outside the window.

They were reminded of winter in Ireland and reminisced about the snow, of sledding and tobogganing, of frosted windows and above all, of the Christmas feasts.

It wasn’t long before a new tradition caught on – one that is still going strong as hotels and restaurants cash in on a commercial opportunity that gets bigger each year.

The Yuletide experience at some hotels and restaurants can be over-priced and underwhelming, so it pays to do your homework before parting with your hard-earned.

Here are just a few of the Christmas in July festivities to consider no matter where you are in Australia this winter.images.jpg

Blue Mountains

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The Three Sisters at Katoomba

The Blue Mountains, 1.5 hours west of Sydney’s CBD by car, is the unofficial home of Christmas in July. It’s where the Yulefest tradition started and it’s where you’ll find more festive feasts than you can poke a stick at.

When the weather turns cold, you’ll find log fires burning, Christmas carols being sung and Christmas turkey taking pride of place in the centre of the table.

Most restaurants and hotels in the Blue Mountains get into the spirit of Christmas in July, including the Carrington Hotel, The Hydro Majestic, the Fairmont Resort, the Mountain Heritage and the Metropole Guesthouse.

In recent years the The Lookout restaurant, perched on the edge of the escarpment, with breathtaking views of the valley and Three Sisters, has served up Christmas dinner with a twist.

Its Yuletide Dinner has a uniquely Australian take on the festive feast and includes dishes such as slow-cooked pork belly with local apple puree and spiced sticky date pudding with cinnamon ice-cream.

Make sure you pack a warm jacket and a big scarf because the average temperature in the upper Mountains in July is around 5° Celsius.

Getting to the Blue Mountains is relatively easy. By train from Sydney’s Central Station take the Blue Mountains Line direct to Katoomba Station. Travel time is about two hours and 10 minutes.images.jpg

Thredbo and Perisher Ski Fields

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Snowboarding Santa at Thredbo

For many Australians dreaming of a white Christmas, Yulefest at the Thredbo or Perisher ski resorts is probably as close to the real thing as they’ll ever get.

It’s the perfect time to slide down the slopes, take a walk through the pristine wilderness and revel in the festivities that only a snowy winter brings.

At Thredbo – a popular NSW ski resort that is roughly six hours from Sydney by car – the festivities are less about food and more about fun and entertainment on the slopes.

The entertainment is geared towards kids with the main event occurring between 3:30 and 4:30pm on July 25 at the Friday Flat Clock Tower.

It’s more of a grown-up affair at Perisher – the largest ski resort in the southern hemisphere –  with the Perisher Valley Hotel teaming up with Four Pillars for a four-course Christmas dinner paired with gin cocktails on July 24.images.jpg

Christmas in July Markets, The Rocks

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The Rocks Christmas market

As part of the Bastille Festival, Sydney’s historic Rocks area is receiving a Parisian makeover with 12 wooden pop-up stores selling a range of wintry treats, Christmas decorations and gifts – as well as the obligatory mulled wine.

Laneways around The Rocks, near Sydney’s Circular Quay,  will be transformed into a fairy-lit French-style Christmas market from July 12-15. The festival takes place against a soundtrack of Christmas carols.

There’ll be more than 70 food stalls as well as beer gardens and an outdoor cinema to discover as part of the French festival.

The nearby Shangri-La Hotel is joining the festivities with a traditional Christmas lunch that includes roast turkey, suckling pig and roast beef with all the trimmings. Christmas in July dinner is available every Friday and Saturday throughout July from 6pm.

Across Hyde Park, next to Sydney’s St Mary’s Cathedral, you’ll find an open air ice-skating rink surrounded by magical lighting, ice slides and family-friendly fare.

There are also similar ice rinks at Luna Park, Bondi Beach and in the western suburbs at Parramatta.images.jpg

Christmas Cruises

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Festive Harbour Cruise

You don’t have to venture far from central Sydney to enjoy all the trimmings of Christmas in July, with most cruise operators offering a traditional festive lunch cruise.

Captain Cook Cruises (pictured) and Vagabond Cruises are two of the more popular Christmas in July cruises on Sydney Harbour, with each lasting 2-3 hours.

Captain Cook Cruises has an extensive buffet featuring Christmas favourites like roast turkey & ham, plum pudding & mince pies, while Vagabond is popular for its seafood buffet and carvery.

You can also get into the festive spirit on the Brisbane River this winter as the iconic paddle wheeler, the Kookaburra Showboat, provides a Christmas cruise with a buffet and live entertainment throughout July.images.jpg

Colonial Tramcar Restaurant, Melbourne

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Christmas meal on wheels

What better way to celebrate Christmas in July than tucking into a five course festive menu (including beverages) while riding a vintage tram through Melbourne?

The Colonial Tramcar Restaurant has been an institution for the past 35 years, and now it’s serving up Christmas lunch every Sunday in July. The Colonial Tramcar departs Normanby Road in South Melbourne at 12.30 pm and returns at 3pm.

Back in the 1980s the tram was free to roam, but these days it’s mostly confined to the 12 route to St Kilda.images.jpg

Melba Restaurant, Melbourne

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Melba is serving up traditional Christmas fare

The chefs at Melba, in the Langham Hotel at Southbank, are cooking up a winter banquet featuring Christmas dinner staples such as wholesome roast turkey with fruit and pine nut stuffing and cranberry roast chicken.

Tasty ginger and maple-glazed roast ham or the five spice and burnt orange glazed whole leg of ham will make it hard to decide which ham to have.

The star of the night, Christmas pudding, will be featured alongside candy cane trifle, banoffee tarts, white chocolate mousse and plum pudding macarons.

The Christmas in July dinner buffet is for one night only – Tuesday 25 July, from 6pm until 11pm.images.jpg

Sovereign Hill, Ballarat

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Fake snow and a light show at Sovereign Hill

With Christmas trees lining Main Street, (artificial) snowfall at sunset and light shows on the facades of 19th century buildings, Ballarat’s Sovereign Hill throws one of the best Christmas in July events in the whole country.

Sovereign Hill is an open-air museum at Ballarat, about 90 minutes from Melbourne, that depicts the hardships of Australia’s gold rush era of the 1850s. (It’s a lot like Old Sydney Town, a convict theme park that operated north of Sydney from 1975 until 2003.)

Every winter the 25 hectare site turns into a sparkling wonderland of fake snow and bright lights as part of the city’s Christmas in July celebration. You can watch the TV commercial here.

Two different Christmas in July dinner options are available in the New York Bakery or the Charlie Napier Hotel on Main Street, but you must book in advance.images.jpg

Durty Nelly’s, Perth

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Dig out your ugliest Christmas jumper

Irish pub Durty Nelly’s is again asking punters to don their most embarrassing Christmas jumper for its Christmas in July party.

Partake of the Guinness, hot buttered rum and Christmas glazed ham with all the trimmings while you check out the competition. There will be live music until late and the jumper judged the best worst Christmas garb will score its owner a prize.images.jpg

Fall’s Creek Sled Dog Classic

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Iconic sled dog race

Okay, it’s not really on in July, but the 8th annual Falls Creek’s Sled Dog Classic is as Christmassy as you’ll find and a great reminder of similar events that take place in the arctic regions each Christmas.

It’s the premier cross country sled race in Australia, with mushers from all over the country converging on the alpine village four hours outside of Melbourne.

From 6pm on August 4, around 40 sled dog teams (including Siberian and Alaskan huskies and Alaskan malamutes and Eurohounds) and will race under lights through the streets of Falls Creek Village on a 5 kilometre course.

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